Array
(
    [zip] => 20149
    [region] => VA
    [country] => United States
    [regionName] => Virginia
    [lat] => 39.043800354004
    [lon] => -77.487396240234
    [isp] => Amazon Technologies Inc.
    [org] => AWS EC2 (us-east-1)
    [status] => success
    [as] => AS14618 Amazon.com, Inc.
    [city] => Ashburn
    [countryCode] => US
    [timezone] => America/New_York
    [query] => 3.236.50.79
)
        

Support 100 years of independent journalism.

What are the wider consequences of universities moving online?

Announcements of teaching via video-link have implications for students and the economy. 

By Stephen Bush

The University of Cambridge has become the first British university to announce that all lectures will be conducted via videolink in the 2020-21 academic year, after Anglia Ruskin and the University of Manchester both announced they would conduct lectures via video-link for the first term. 

These are decisions with major implications for the academic experience of current students, but ones with even bigger potential ramifications for the funding of British higher education. That has wide-reaching economic effects, not just because of the long-run benefits to higher education but the immediate importance of universities to their local economies. 

The introduction of tuition fees, and the subsequent increases, resulted in a decrease in the number of students taking a year out in order to minimise their costs. We know prospective students are price-sensitive: tuition fee increases have not led to significant decline in the number of students applying, regardless of income or background, but they have resulted in changes in behaviour. 

Will prospective students – particularly international students, whose higher fees are important to so many universities – decide to give it a miss this year? Will others opt to defer mid-course? The fees regime for domestic students makes dropping out midway financially prohibitive, but if you are an international student paying higher fees regardless, you might take a different view.

These are big, immediate financial challenges for universities and they have significant consequences for the rest of the economy. Universities are yet another reminder that without the necessary infrastructure to test, trace and isolate, and to reduce community spread, there is no path back to something like normal life. And that means there is no meaningful path back to a normal economy either. 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them